15 June 2010
We hear a lot about the ‘mystery of the female’, which the male of the species encounters as he comes into adulthood.
Where we may be doing ourselves an injustice is forgetting that there is also a ‘mystery of the male’. Just as a woman coming into adulthood who has been properly educated knows, there is something very precious in her, which she must not deface (symbolized but not entirely reducible to her virginity), so I would argue there is a male mystery, something which a male has to guard equally, and which, too, can be trampled underfoot.
These mysteries are defined largely, but not completely, in terms of the other gender. They meet, and their mutual interdependence is expressed, in good sexual encounter.
But not only: but also on the spiritual level, if we take care to differentiate (which we rarely do, the differences between male and female spirituality).
Paradoxically, despite the male’s greater natural strength, the male mystery is probably more fragile and at risk, not helped by the weakening of the role of fatherhood.
It is something that used to be taught in a good Catholic education –not least because a clear sense of male mystery, of the vocation of maleness, makes possible the sacrifice of celibacy.
It is also something which has to be passed on from male to male, from one generation to another, a process seriously impeded by a situation in which pubescent males are taught with girls and not separately from them, also when pubescent males are deprived of large swathes of traditional male symbolism, in particular the warrior symbolism. And excuse me, kicking footballs into goals is symbolically very inferior to fencing or kendo.
It is something which men can destroy themselves, but yes, dare I say it, it is something that woman can also damage, just as men can, and often do, trample over the mystery of the female. One often encounters an at times quite vicious 'I can get by without a male' mentality. Yes a woman can, and has always been able to, often of necessity in post-war situations. But I do ask whether she doesn’t lose something very valuable en cours de route.